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Thursday’s slate and what to watch

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Yet another day of watching college basketball all day. This is the sport’s holiday gift to us.

So what shouldn’t you miss tonight? Plenty. And good luck to those of you on the East Coast. The late, late games may be the best of the night.

(All times ET; TV info courtesy of HDSportsGuide.com)

Missouri vs. Illinois at St. Louis, Mo., 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Though let’s start with this, one of the few rivalry games on the slate, featuring two teams with combined records of 22-1. But those records are a little deceiving. The Illini aren’t in Missouri’s class, mostly because the two are polar opposites on offense – only Florida boats a more efficient offense than the Tigers – while Illinois’ defense is its calling card. We’ll see if Mizzou’s overwhelming edge at guard is too much for Illinois to withstand.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
What to make of these Tigers? Loaded with talent, but unable to beat a marquee team, this could be their best chance. They already lost once to Georgetown this season, but it was an overtime thriller and the Hoyas (9-1) have done little to test themselves since. Maybe this is finally the point Memphis plays a little defense.

Florida State at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Unstoppable force (Florida’s offense) meets immovable object (Florida State’s defense). Buckle up.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8 p.m. (Action3News)
Action3News is an Omaha station. If you can dial it up, do it. The odds of Doug McDermott staging an epic shootout with Northwestern’s John Shurna is pretty high. In fact, the odds of seeing an all-offense, no-defense are better than Kim Kardashian hooking up with an athlete in the next month.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m. (FSN)
The Cardinal (10-1) should dominate this game. Butler’s offense will have issues scoring against a solid defense and it’s the last of what’s been a trying non-conference schedule for the Bulldogs (5-7). Then again, Butler had no business beating Purdue, either.

Baylor vs. St. Mary’s in Las Vegas Invite, 10 p.m. (ESPN3)
The first of two potentially fantastic games. St. Mary’s (10-1) hasn’t played much of a schedule yet, but the Gaels have what Baylor doesn’t – guards who know how to run an offense. Plus, St. Mary’s frontcourt is actually a little underrated. The Bears (10-0) should feast on the boards with their massive frontline, but I bet the Gaels’ rebounding keeps this one close. And if it’s close, I like their odds if Matthews Dellavedova gets a chance at the final shot.

Long Beach State vs. Xavier in Diamond Head Classic, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
Last one. And it’s a good one. LBS has played the nation’s second-toughest non-conference schedule, and this marks the end of a long, trying stretch to prepare for Big West play. The 49ers get the added benefit of facing a depleted Xavier team, too. Starting guard Mark Lyons and wing Dezmine Wells are still sitting for suspensions earned during their brawl against Cincinnati, which leaves Tu Holloway to do all the heavy lifting – and try to slow down Casper Ware. Xavier (8-1) was a mess in it s last game, a 22-point loss to Oral Roberts. Holloway’s back, but LBS is a far superior foe. Who knows what to expect here?

EAST

Drexel at Binghamton, 7 p.m.

Bucknell at Boston U., 7 p.m.

La Salle at CCSU, 7 p.m.

Texas St. at Fordham, 7 p.m.

James Madison at George Washington, 7 p.m.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m.

FAU at Harvard, 7 p.m.

Colgate at Hofstra, 7 p.m.

San Francisco at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.

Rider at Monmouth (NJ), 7 p.m.

Niagara at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Princeton at Siena, 7 p.m.

Tulane at Syracuse, 7 p.m.

Fairfield at UConn, 7 p.m.

Davidson at UMass, 7 p.m.

American U. at Villanova, 7 p.m.

Loyola of Chicago at Canisius, 7:30 p.m.

NJIT at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m.

Texas-Arlington at St. Peter’s, 7:30 p.m.

SOUTH

Loyola (Md.) at Kentucky, 1 p.m.

Mount St. Mary’s at Savannah St., 6 p.m.

Campbell at Appalachian St., 7 p.m.

Coll. of Charleston at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m.

Gardner-Webb at East Carolina, 7 p.m.

Florida St. at Florida, 7 p.m.

Georgia Southern at Georgia St., 7 p.m.

Mercer at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.

Delaware at Howard, 7 p.m.

Northeastern at NC State, 7 p.m.

VMI at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Navy at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.

VCU at UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.

E. Michigan at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.

Toledo at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:05 p.m.

Miami at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Bowling Green at FIU, 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern St. at Mississippi St., 8 p.m.

South Florida at Southern Miss., 8 p.m.

UTSA at Troy, 8 p.m.

Jacksonville at UAB, 8 p.m.

MIDWEST

UMBC at Indiana, 6 p.m.

Bradley at Michigan, 6:30 p.m.

Sam Houston St. at Cleveland St., 7 p.m.

Alabama St. at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Cent. Michigan at Wright St., 7 p.m.

Robert Morris at Youngstown St., 7:05 p.m.

Idaho at Green Bay, 8 p.m.

N. Dakota St. at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Arkansas St. at Saint Louis, 8 p.m.

North Dakota at W. Illinois, 8 p.m.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8:05 p.m.

Boise St. at Iowa, 8:30 p.m.

Miami (Ohio) at Ohio St., 8:30 p.m.

Milwaukee at Marquette, 9 p.m.

Lehigh at Michigan St., 9 p.m.

Illinois at Missouri, 9 p.m.

SOUTHWEST

NC Central at Prairie View, 7:30 p.m.

Louisiana Tech at Arkansas, 8 p.m.

LSU at North Texas, 8 p.m.

Dallas Christian at SMU, 8 p.m.

Grambling St. at TCU, 8 p.m.

Rice at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.

Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST

Bethune-Cookman vs. Texas A&M-CC at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 3 p.m.

South Alabama at San Diego, 5 p.m.

Tennessee Tech vs. Kennesaw St. at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 5:30 p.m.

Bryant at Arizona, 7 p.m.

Elon at San Diego St., 7:30 p.m.

Missouri St. vs. West Virginia at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 8 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara at BYU, 9 p.m.

Texas Southern at Colorado, 9 p.m.

The Citadel at Denver, 9 p.m.

Air Force at Gonzaga, 9 p.m.

Utah Valley at Montana, 9 p.m.

UMKC at New Mexico, 9 p.m.

UC Davis at S. Utah, 9 p.m.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m.

Utah at Weber St., 9 p.m.

Wyoming at Idaho St., 9:05 p.m.

Colorado St. at N. Colorado, 9:05 p.m.

Pacific at CS Bakersfield, 10 p.m.

Portland at Nevada, 10 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin at Oregon, 10 p.m.

Hope International at UC Irvine, 10 p.m.

San Jose St. at UC Riverside, 10 p.m.

CS Northridge at Washington, 10 p.m.

Pepperdine at Washington St., 10 p.m.

Portland St. at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10:05 p.m.

SE Missouri at Sacramento St., 10:05 p.m.

Kent St. at Utah St., 10:05 p.m.

Saint Mary’s (Cal) vs. Baylor at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 10:30 p.m.

Kansas at Southern Cal, 11 p.m.

TOURNAMENTS

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

At Honolulu

First Round

UTEP vs. Clemson, 2:30 p.m.

Kansas St. vs. S. Illinois, 5 p.m.

Long Beach St. vs. Xavier, 11 p.m.

Auburn at Hawaii, 1:30 a.m.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Update: Creighton’s Watson turns himself into police

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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Update: Later Sunday, Watson turned himself into the Douglas County Jail, a law enforcement official told the Omaha World-Herald. Watson’s attorney told the paper that Watson was driving back to Omaha from his native Philadelphia and was slowed by the snowstorm that hit parts of the country this week.

Law enforcement has been unable to arrest Creighton guard Maurice Watson since a warrant for his arrest on the charge first-degree sexual assault was issued last week, according to police.

“The U.S. Marshals Service and the Omaha Police Fugitive Unit continue to look for Mr. Watson,” Omaha Police said in a statement Sunday. “At this point in time, Mr. Watson is dodging law enforcement efforts to arrest him.

“Until he is located and arrested by law enforcement, or turns himself in, the entire Douglas County Court system is operating off of Mr. Watson’s time frame.

“Neither OPD nor the Douglas County Attorney’s Office is part of any specific arrangements for Mr. Watson to turn himself in.”

Watson was accused by a 19-year-old acquaintance, who reportedly is also a Creighton student, of sexual assault in the bathroom of an Omaha residence around 3 a.m. on Feb. 4. A report was filed later that day.

The point guard was in the midst of a banner season for the Bluejays before he tore his ACL in January, which ended his collegiate career. Creighton announced on Feb. 13 he was suspended from the team and not allowed to participate in senior night act due to  “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The warrant for his arrest was issued Thursday.

 

Seventh-ranked Louisville dominates Syracuse

Rick Pitino
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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The hint arrived early that Louisville might be no kind of matchup for Syracuse when the Cardinals jumped out to a quick 11-2 lead. The Orange, though, appeared to steady and seemed intent on delivering an interesting Sunday afternoon and a maybe another resume-changing win after beating Duke earlier in the week as the roared back to take a lead.

Everyone should have taken the early hint.

Louisville used a 21-4 first-half run to gain separation and never looked back as the Cardinals dominated Syracuse, 88-68, on Saturday afternoon at the KFC Yum! Center.

The win was the fourth in five games for Louisville, which shot 56.9 percent from the floor and held the Orange to 35.7 percent shooting.

Donovan Mitchell was sensational, going for 25 points on 9 of 16 shooting, including 6 of 10 from deep, while also grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists. It was his third-straight game with at least 20 points.  He also had an absolutely dynamic one-handed alley-oop late that was just fantastic.

The Cardinals showed no ill effects of a hangover stemming from the loss earlier this week at North Carolina, but instead it was as dominant a performance as they’ve had in weeks.

On the losing side of the ledger are the Orange, who looked to be building some momentum after a three-game losing streak by beating Duke on Wednesday. Then, the Blue Devils went and lost to Miami and Syracuse just got smashed by another ACC contender. That doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.

For Syracuse, it looks destined to spend another Selection Sunday sweating, though there’s certainly enough time for it to go either way. The Orange can really only hurt themselves until the ACC tournament with Georgia Tech heading to the Carrier Dome this week. That’s a game Syracuse will need to win, lest they really want the pressure ratcheted up in Brooklyn.

A big part of the issue for Syracuse pinning its hopes on the ACC tournament is its total lack of depth. Tyler Lydon and Andrew White both went at least 40 minutes for the 11- and 10-straight games, respectively. Syracuse played seven and got 28 minutes total from its bench.

With a few days typically between days, that’s pretty sustainable for the regular season, but those minutes are sure to weigh on players going on back-to-back (and maybe longer) days.

#POSTERIZED: Donovan Mitchell caps Cards win with an oop

LOUISVILLE, KY - JANUARY 19:  Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Louisville Cardinals reacts after making a three point shot to end the first half against the Clemson Tigers at KFC YUM! Center on January 19, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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Louisville used a huge first-half run to pull away from Syracuse, and a Donovan Mitchell slam to put the icing on the cake.

The Cardinals sophomore caught a pass one-handed and seamlessly threw it home to deliver the signature moment of Louisville’s 88-68 win over the Orange on Saturday

LaVar Ball walks back statement on Lonzo’s Laker future

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images
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The only person better at generating headlines than Lonzo Ball seems to be his father, LaVar. The elder Ball managed to do so again this weekend, once for saying something wild and then again for walking those comments back.

LaVar told KCUB Sports Radio 1290 in Arizona that UCLA star Lonzo would play for the Lakers and that he would discourage other teams from taking the stellar point guard at the top of the draft. Later, he said he was only posturing.

“I’m not trying to say he won’t play for a different team,” LaVar told ESPN. “But I’d like him to play for the Lakers because it’s home, and I’d love him to learn from Magic [Johnson]. He’s the best guard ever to me, and nobody better for Lonzo to learn from than Magic Johnson.”

Lonzo is averaging 14.8, 7.6 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game for the Bruins, who stand at 26-3 on the season. He’s in the mix to be the potential No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft.

LaVar has already stated on multiple occasions that Lonzo is better than two-time MVP Steph Curry of Golden State. He’s clearly supremely confident – and outspoken – about his son’s talent. With two younger sons, LaMelo and LiAngelo, set to soon begin their own college careers, LaVar’s exuberant proclamations may just be getting started.

Duke and Krzyzewski have “a decision” to make as injuries linger

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 26:  Amile Jefferson #21 talks with Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils during the game against the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
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Duke missed the production of veterans Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson on Saturday in its 55-50 loss to Miami, the Blue Devils’ second-straight loss after falling to Syracuse earlier in the week. It also missed their influence on the offensive end.

Allen missed the game with an ankle injury while the foot problem that sidelined Jefferson for a pair of games in January continues to be an issue and limited to minor second-half minutes Saturday. Without the pair, Duke shot 31.8 percent from the floor and had 13 turnovers against the Hurricanes.

We need those guys to calm people down on the offensive end,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “The continuity on the offensive end is not up to par with the defense.”

Both players will be re-evaluated before Tuesday’s home contest against Florida State, but Jefferson’s injury would appear to be the most concerning given it has lingered for well over a month now.

“I’ve got to make a decision with Amile,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s not running. He is not running at all.”

Duke could likely make it work in the short term if it was short just one of the Allen-Jefferson duo, but without both it stresses the ballhandling, playmaking and inexperienced frontcourt all at the same time. Luke Kennard was the only Blue Devil to crack double figures scoring against the ‘Canes while freshmen Marques Bolden and Harry Giles, who both have had their injury issues, were relatively ineffective in player fewer than 20 minutes apiece. Both Kennard and Jayson Tatum played a full 40.

At the start of the season, Duke had the look of a juggernaut, but given the multitude of issues they’ve faced seemingly from the jump, it has a bit of a slog with only a seven-game winning streak to have eased their pain all year.

What made the Blue Devils look so formidable before the season was their sheer level of talent. With Allen and Jefferson ailing, the move for Krzyzewski might be to just bet on that talent in the NCAA tournament rather than jockey for seeding position. He could keep Jefferson and Allen on the shelf as they heal, give Giles and Bolden a ton of run and then just make a go of it in the Big Dance, betting on the talent overcoming the inconsistency of the season.

Like Krzyzewski said about Jefferson, he’s got a decision to make.